It’s lovely to be a part of ‘The Summer of Reckoning’ blog tour today, I’m joining in with an extract from the novel, please scroll down for a taste of the writing and more information about this enticing story.
A psychological thriller set in the Luberon, a touristic French region that evokes holidays in magnificent pool-adorned villas. For those who live there year-round, it often means stifling poverty and boredom.
Two teenage sisters have grown up in a world where the main distractions are hatred of Arabs and booze. When Celine, 16, discovers she is pregnant and refuses to divulge her lover’s identity, her father embarks on a mission of revenge. A dark and upsetting account of an ailing society, filled with silent and murderous rage.
Brunet uses her tense and efficient novel to tell us a story of ‘people at sea, on a boat punctured just above the waterline, never far from a shipwreck’. No one describes better the poisonous claustrophobia of families trapped in small rural towns. She writes with a scalpel about couples, family, sexism, racism and poverty.
At home, Johanna remembers, a hand on the backside was friendly, like – a way of saying you had a nice one, meaning “You’ve got potential” – something between a caress and a slap on the rump of a mare. The girls held trump cards, like in a tarot game, and you could almost say that if they played them right, they’d win. Except that neither of them – not Jo and not her sister Céline – have ever won any game. But since they hadn’t drawn up the rules of the game, they were shafted whatever they did. Trump cards or bait, it was dead in the water before it even started.
For Céline, it’s not a hand on her backside tonight, but a slap across her face. Her father, furious, is almost choking on his anger. He doesn’t exactly have a wide range of vocabulary as it is, but this is worse. He turns his daughter’s face with his huge builder’s hand; she crashes down onto the kitchen floor – a heap of wet cloth. She makes an odd kind of sound, as though some bits of her have broken.
“Who is it?”
Céline couldn’t answer even if she wanted to. She tries to catch her breath. Her hair hangs straight over her face, so you can’t see her eyes or her mouth. Jo would like to help her but it’s as though her feet are screwed to the floor like a prison bed.
The kitchen smells of detergent and lavender, like an advert for the South of France, cicadas and all.
“Who’s the piece of shit that did this to you? Who’s the son of a bitch who dared?”
Their mother fills a glass with water. It slips out of her hand and rolls into the stainless-steel sink. She whispers Stop it, but without conviction. Actually, you don’t really know who she’s saying it to.
“Are you going to answer me or not?”
Then her father stops yelling. His chin starts to quiver and that’s even more threatening, so Jo looks away. Their mother crouches down, holding the glass of water, and lifts Céline’s face but with no tenderness. She’s never been shown any herself, after all. Just for a second, you wonder if she’s about to throw the water in her daughter’s face or help her drink it. Céline props herself up on the floor with one hand and clings to her mother with the other. The water spills and runs down her mother’s bare knee and she gets annoyed, pulls away, leaves the glass on the floor and stands back up with difficulty – a very old woman all of a sudden, though she always carries on as if she’s thirty. Céline lets go of her wrist and remains lying on her elbow. Her lip has swollen up and her nose looks crooked. Her father has never hit her so hard before. She takes the glass to drink from it but the water runs down the side, over her chin and onto her T-shirt that has a pink pattern with sequins around it, and there’s blood bubbling out of her right nostril. There’s a stabbing pain in her stomach, like a thousand darts.
Her father stands with his arms crossed, having regained his strength even in his body language, and challenges Céline with his glare. Her eyes are full of water, her cheeks hollow from gritting her teeth.
“She’s not going to tell,” her mother hisses. “The bitch isn’t going to tell us anything.”